Friday, January 11, 2019


In case you haven't noticed, the day is beginning with bright lights rising in the east. The sun? No. It's Venus and Jupiter, converging for a beautiful conjunction in the pre-dawn sky. Yesterday, Finazzi Antonio photographed the two planets shining through the rosy glow of sunrise in Colli di San Fermo, Italy:
"I saw them through the trees at dawn," he says. "What a beautiful view!"
In the mornings ahead, Venus and Jupiter will draw closer and closer together, putting on a better show with each successive sunrise. At closest approach on Jan. 22nd, they will be only 2.5 degrees apart--a double beacon in the dawn sky visible even from brightly-lit cities. 
This is a special conjunction. Not only are Venus and Jupiter the two brightest planets, but also they are converging while Venus is near its maximum elongation (greatest apparent distance) from the sun. As a result, the gathering is visible almost a full hour before daybreak.
Sky maps: Jan. 111213141516171819202122
It's also special because it is happening in Ophiuchus--the unofficial 13th constellation of the zodiac. Most people know of only twelve: Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius. The sun passes through these constellations, one by one, throughout the year. They're the ancient signs of the zodiac.
Modern astronomers don't divide the sky the same way ancient astronomers did. According to today's star maps, the sun cuts through a 13th constellation, Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer, between Nov. 30th and Dec. 17th--and this is where the conjunction is happening.
Finding Venus and Jupiter is easy. Wake up early, look southeast, and enjoy the show! Sky maps: Jan. 111213141516171819202122

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